Civil rights groups say a tangle of Republican-backed “voter suppression” laws enacted since 2010 probably helped tip the scale for Republican nominee Donald Trump in some closely contested states on election night. “When we look back, we will find that voter suppression figured prominently in the story surrounding the 2016 presidential election,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Fourteen states had restrictive new voting laws on the books for the first time in a presidential election this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The laws included a mix of photo ID requirements for voters, cuts to early voting opportunities and curbs on voter registration activity. The laws, which were presumably enacted as a safeguard against voter fraud, began to spread nationally after the 2010 midterm elections, when large numbers of Republicans were swept into state offices.
Since then, 10 states have imposed stricter voter ID laws, seven made registration more difficult, six have cut early voting opportunities and three have made it harder to restore voting rights to people with criminal convictions, according to the Brennan Center.
The center charges that race and partisanship are behind many of the laws, which have been found to disproportionately affect voters who traditionally vote Democratic: minorities, the poor, college students and other young voters..
In addition to systemic barriers, voters faced individual obstacles on Election Day, Clarke said during a news briefing on Thursday. The problems included long lines at polls, voters’ names not appearing on registration lists, a lack of polling place assistance for foreign-language speakers and “poll workers who requested strict photo ID in states where no such ID was required.”